Venezuela : intriguing initiatives


Richard Moore

    "There is an offer on the table for low-cost heating oil
    and gasoline for poor communities in the United States,"
    said Robert Free Galvan, who is contacting tribes in the
    United States with Venezuela's offer.
    "I was amazed at 12-cent-a-gallon gas," said Galvan,
    adding that he fell in love with the beauty of the green
    mountains and blue ocean waters in Venezuela.

I continue to be amazed by the various initiatives Chavez
has undertaken. Besides his transformational work within
Venezuela, empowering the grass roots, he's working toward
building a cooperative economic sphere in Latin America -
challenging the hegemony of the WTO, the IMF, and Western
banks. How many government leaders can also qualify as
effective progressive activists?

This fellow, Robert Free Galvan, is also very interesting.
Google reveals that he has been a long-time activist in
American indigenous communities, particularly around
health issues. He attended a 'festival' in Venezuela, was
impressed, and suggested some initiatives to Chavez that
were adopted.

An inspiring example of activist networking.



    Venezuela's Hugo Chavez lifts indigenous rights struggle
    in Americas to new level
    Venezuela Offers Support to U.S. Indigenous Communities 

Thursday, Sep 22, 2005 
By: Brenda Norrell - Indian Country Today 

Credit: ABN/Wendys Olivio 
Seattle, September 20, 2005.

    - While setting new global standards for the recognition
    of indigenous rights in Venezuela, President Hugo Chavez
    has made an offer to bring low-cost gasoline to the poor
    in the United States, including American Indian tribal

Chavez has also offered free eye surgery for a certain
number economically disadvantaged U.S. residents.

"There is an offer on the table for low-cost heating oil
and gasoline for poor communities in the United States,"
said Robert Free Galvan, who is contacting tribes in the
United States with Venezuela's offer.

"Hopefully, Indian tribes and Native entities will take
advantage of this opportunity to become stronger in the
global community."

Galvan's comments came after he attended the 16th World
Festival of Students and Youth in Caracas, Venezuela, Aug.
7 - 15, which was attended by 40,000 people.

"I was amazed at 12-cent-a-gallon gas," said Galvan,
adding that he fell in love with the beauty of the green
mountains and blue ocean waters in Venezuela.

Chavez has already sent hundreds of thousands of barrels
of oil to the region hit by Hurricane Katrina.

Venezuela owns CITGO Petroleum Corp., which has eight
refineries in the United States, and has set aside up to
10 percent of its refined oil products to be sold directly
to organized poor communities, and institutions in the
United States without intermediaries.

Galvan said Chavez and his revolution for indigenous
rights gained the respect of indigenous people at the
world gathering in Venezuela. During the opening
procession of nations, Chavez gave a "thumbs up" to the
banner displaying the words "Leonard Peltier."

"Chavez acknowledged indigenous people by having them open
and bless the gathering," Galvin said.

The first speaker was a Native woman, one of three
indigenous representatives in the Venezuela Assembly (or
Congress), who gave testimony to advances for indigenous

"Chavez hugged all the indigenous leaders in front of the
world and gave deeds of territory to the tribes," Galvan
said of the communal land titles given to six communities
of the Karina, which is one of Venezuela's 28 indigenous

Chavez' Mission Guaicaipuro lists 15 more indigenous
groups to receive their ancestral land before the end of
2006. Galvan pointed out that earlier Chavez called for a
halt to the celebration of Columbus Day and replaced it
with "Indigenous Resistance Day."

The U.S. government, Galvan said, has reacted to Chavez'
leadership and far-sweeping reforms for indigenous rights
with racism.

"The United States government is very racist. Chavez is
indigenous and part black, and is in control of one of the
world's largest oil reserves," Galvan said.

Galvan said he decided to attend the world gathering after
hearing of the movement for "fair trade," as opposed to
"free trade," which is igniting the indigenous rights
movement in Bolivia, Ecuador and Peru, where the majority
of the population is indigenous.

The economic alliance promotes fair trade as an
alternative to the World Trade Organization, North
American Free Trade Agreement or Central American Free
Trade Agreement, he said.

"These trade agreements seem to favor the rich and
powerful corporations. Chavez has spent billions of oil
dollars on education, feeding and housing the people of
his country in order to rebuild the situation in his
government which was inherited from the previous
government that had channeled much of the country's
resources into a few hands," Galvan said.

During the world gathering, the contingent from the United
States did not give Galvan the opportunity to present his
PowerPoint presentation of indigenous issues at the world
gathering or allow him to have a table of information.

The struggles of the Western Shoshone to protect their
aboriginal lands in what is now called Nevada and the
Gwich'in to protect the Arctic from oil exploration were
two of the issues he wanted to present to the world

Galvan said Fourth World Rising, an Intra-American
collective of indigenous peoples from the Lakota, Maya and
Warm Springs nations, was also prevented by the U.S.
organizers from presenting their information concerning
the United Nations Draft Declaration of Indigenous Rights.

However, Galvan was able to show his presentation to a few
Venezuelan government representatives, who were upset at
the missed opportunity to present the information to the
world gathering. They offered Galvan the opportunity to
present it on Venezuelan national television, but his
flight departure prevented it.

Finally, the Venezuelan government contacted Galvan at
home in Seattle and set in motion a new effort to bring
low-cost gasoline to Indian tribal members and cultural
exchanges between indigenous of the north and south.

"The government of Venezuela contacted me by e-mails and
phone calls for my opinion and feedback of the gathering
in August. They heard my effort to bring indigenous
struggles to be shared with the world was prevented by the
organizers from the U.S. delegation to the conference.

"They were upset that it was not presented."

Galvan said he suggested Venezuela provide low-cost
gasoline to poor U.S. communities while he was in
Venezuela in August. "I suggested this to them while I was
in Caracas. Maybe they were already thinking of this, or
maybe I ignited the idea. I like to think the latter."

Galvan pointed out that Venezuela has already
distinguished itself in the international arena of
indigenous human rights. Venezuela has accelerated the
process for indigenous tribes to be recognized by the
government, while in the United States the strategy is

Galvan also pointed out that Venezuela recognizes
indigenous representatives regardless of how the community
chooses to select their representatives, including those
selected with traditional methods.

Venezuela's Bolivarian Constitution establishes indigenous
rights of territory, intercultural and bilingual education
and local political representation. The Constitution
adopted in 1999 states the county's indigenous peoples
have right to their ancestral territories.

Chavez' efforts have not gone unnoticed.

In August, the United States, Christian evangelist Pat
Robertson called on the United States to assassinate

Galvan said, "Pat Robertson represents fundamentalists
which are at the same level as al-Qaida in terms of
fanatical self righteousness. Indigenous people have known
terrorism from self righteous fanatics."

Chavez told Ted Koppel on ABC's "Nightline" in September
that he has proof that the United States is planning to
invade Venezuela. Code-named "Balboa," Chavez said the
U.S. recently carried out training maneuvers in Curacao,
Venezuela. Chavez warned if the U.S. carries out this plan
it would result in a 100-year war. Also, Chavez pointed
out Venezuela sends 1.5 million barrels of oil to the U.S.
each day.

Self-described as a revolutionary, Chavez said, "I've been
in revolt for years against ignominy, against injustice,
against inequality, against immorality, against the
exploitation of human beings."

Native communities and entities wanting to learn more
about Venezuela's offer of low-cost gasoline and heating
oil can e-mail Robert Free Galvan at robtfree

This news article published by Indian Country Today , and
was slightly updated by to add
Venezuela's recent offer of free eye surgery for U.S.

See also: 
    Venezuela Gives Land Titles to 6 Indigenous Communities 
    The Promise of Restitution of Indigenous Rights in Venezuela 
    Venezuela and Indigenous Rights 



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